The Spirit Wrestler Gallery is very pleased to be hosting this small exhibition of remarkable sculptures from the Nunavut community of Iglulik. Iglulik (previously spelled Igloolik) is a small community of approximately 1,300 people situated on an island in the Foxe Basin, close to the Melville Peninsula and across the straits from Baffin Island in northern Canada. The name of the community in Inuktituk means: “there is an igloo here”. The inhabitants of this region, which includes Melville Peninsula, Southampton Island and northern Baffin Island, are called Iglulingmiut.
The history of population of this area dates back approximately four thousand years, with numerous archaeological sites on the island reflecting the area’s earliest inhabitants. The first European contact came with the arrival of the British ships, HMS Fury and HMS Hecla, under the command of Captain William Edward Parry, which wintered there in 1822. Later, American explorer, Charles Francis Hall visited Iglulik in 1867 and 1868 in search for survivors of the lost Franklin Expedition. In 1913, Alfred Tremblay, a French-Canadian prospector with Captain Joseph Bernier’s expedition to Pond Inlet, extended his mineral exploration overland to Iglulik, and in 1921, a member of Knud Rasmussen’s Fifth Thule Expedition visited the island. The first permanent presence by southerners in Iglulik was with the establishment of a Roman Catholic Mission in the 1930s. Later in that decade, the Hudson’s Bay Company established a trading post—and the community became one of the first in the region with an RCMP station, day schools, and clinics.
Recently, Zacharias Kunuk, the Inuit artist and film maker from Iglulik, placed the community on the world stage with two movies filmed in the area which employed local Inuit as actors. In 2001, the award-winning Canadian film “Atanarjuat—The Fast Runner” received world-wide acclaim, and this was followed in 2006 by the “The Journals of Knud Rasmussen”, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
To many collectors, Iglulik is a lesser-known community, both for its geographic remoteness and for the fact that it was simply overshadowed by the market demand for some of the more renowned art-producing communities in the region. Nevertheless, the community is home to a group of very talented carvers who quietly produce wonderful, intimate works which depict legends and traditional life on the land. The artists in Iglulik tend to utilize a variety of indigenous materials in their carvings, which include stone, whalebone, walrus bone, ivory, baleen and especially caribou antler.
We have over the last two years chosen this collection of carvings for our audience to enjoy a rare glimpse into the artistic vision of the artists of Iglulik. We are delighted to share them with you.